Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Kisses the Color of Thunder: A Story About Music
The blue hour of the afternoon walking from the rehearsal at Symphony Hall to the subway station on the corner of 6th ave and 42nd feels smooth, round and soft, peaked stiffly in the center as I would imagine a woman’s breast would feel if I ever dared to touch one. I have not. I can’t even look at them in pictures.
The jackhammer rapping of the workman floats by as a trail of perfectly round gray airbursts like floating manhole covers with glowing silver rims. They rise into the city sky to the skyscrapers like a flock of lost geese. When the noise makes me anxious the number 9 stands next to me, putting her loving arms around me and holding me close and warm. She calms me. Numbers are my friends.
I have an obsessive need for order and routine. In the morning, each morning except for Saturday which is a red day, I have exactly one cup of well steamed oat groats, with 22 raisins cooled by exactly one third of a cup of boiled custard cream. I must leave the house for the bus at exactly 7:15, not earlier, not later. On the bus I must not, cannot, sit next to a girl or a woman of any age or body shape. I couldn’t stand it; I’d become sick. I would suffocate from an absolute fear as the walls of the bus squeezed in and crushed me. If I can’t sit alone or with a male I stand near the front holding the pole where I can keep my eyes looking out the driver’s window and count prime numbers in sequence.
The exhaust of taxi cabs sounds like the tears of angels. The blare of their horns is a clear forest green that tastes of mown grass. The Key of G is also forest green, but tastes like a good Brooklyn egg cream.
The taste of D Major is sweet sour like the taste of Bavarian sauerkraut. The taste of B Sharp is clear and shiny like ice caressing your cheek in the summer. The tolling of church bells spins silvery gyres like dust devils. When I feel nervous in the very last moment before the conductor lifts his baton, the number 9 – noble and very British – stands next to me and bids me stand true.
Music was my first language, my mother humming to me in the crib is my earliest memory. I recall humming back although I think that can’t be true. I’m a passionate man. But disorderly, unbounded passion terrifies me. Women evoke passion, I adore them, I love the company of women and yet I can’t bear to touch them or even be near them. Their breath steams the air like icicles. Speaking to them above a murmur is impossible. They have always terrified me to the bowels and filled me with longing. Their ugly emotional scenes and outbursts in public; their reaching hands, their screeching laughter, so often aimed at me. Music is how I experience my passion boxed in and tamed with mathematical orderliness. You will say – oh, he must love Bach. No. Beethoven. Deaf, gloomy Beethoven is the soul of repressed passion.
I have a neural condition which is so natural to me I didn’t know it existed until I was in 2nd grade. My teacher asked me a simple math question and I went on staring into space. “Well,” she demanded, “What is it?” I told her I was counting the colored squares to the number 4 times 12 and the kids laughed and threw paper at me. Then I knew I was different and kept these things to myself. There is an area in the limbic system of the brain that receives all the data flow from our sense organs and interprets and distributes it to hand craft each instant of what we experience as the world around us. The senses are kept in their separate spaces. When these spaces bleed into each other and are experienced as a single river, sound has shape, taste has color and numbers cuddle.
When I pass people in the street and hear their voices, I see swimming spider silk lines of color connecting their ears together, person to person in a kind of intimacy only I can see, or another one like me. I have synesthesia. About one in two thousand persons is a closet synesthete. Don’t feel sorry for us; don’t think we have a brain disorder just because we’re not ordinary. We’re the ones who feel sorry for you. From where we stand, you’re the unfortunate ones. There is a web of interconnected sensual beauty you know nothing of. There is also a girl.
For all I know she may only live inside my violin. Holding tight to the violin case snugged under my left arm, I search each woman’s face as I scuttle along.
Near the entrance to little Bryant Park behind the big Public Library is the stairs to the number 7 train. This is where I said I would meet her.
We discovered each other during a rehearsal last month. Always in the same way. I played, from sheet music, the concerto for violin in D Major, opus 61 by Beethoven. This is one of the great romantic pieces of music, a requiem for lovers. As the notes braced my tongue, making me squint against the sweet intensity the notes invoked, I sensed her sitting at the edge of my vision. A waif, small and thin, dressed in yellow with a square, tight skinned jaw, strong skeptical eyes and surprised looking eyebrows. She wasn’t looking at any of the other players. She smoothed her hands over a cello and the shapes rose from her and I leaned into the shapes, adjusted my pacing and drawing to them ignoring the conductor and following her. I sensed people’s eyes on me, sitting straightly in a whirlwind of bright geometry, trusting her. When the last note had sounded, there was such a singe of heat and pain that I had to sigh out loud and then I heard applause. The conductor in his saggy sweater and disheveled beard was regarding me with bemused surprise. But that was not it, no. I barely saw or heard them as her face traveled the abyss to mine, a flowery perfume, like an old lady’s perfume and then her lips touched mine and pressed.
There was the deep rolling peal of great Donner’s storm hammer, like a Wagnerian chorus of kettle drums and then the golden blare of thunder in my eyes, an overwhelming and lemony gold, a yellow reserved for Chinese emperors - and she was gone. I didn’t see her leave. There was only the empty chair and the abandoned cello leaning on it.
When we rehearsed the concerto it happened again, again she appeared out of no where, kissed me and the blare of thunder like someone shining a golden light in my eyes as she vanished like a bubble.
I yelled “Bryant Park! Subway! Four thirty!” I don’t even know if she heard me. No one seemed to notice if she had ever been there. I was terrified to ask.
I unpack the case on the sidewalk by the iron fenced entrance to the park and lift out the violin. A last despairing look at the women and girls streaming past me from the depths of the subway entrance and I know already, she isn’t there. She isn’t coming.
I fold a white handkerchief and rest it on the base of the old violin and tuck it under my chin. A finger pluck arpeggio to check the tune of the strings and then a touch of the bow.
As the concerto begins to bloom, as the spidery and nostalgic colors begin to gather to me I am surrounded, not only by people but the presence of a curvaceous harem of number 3’s. They reassure me. Dollar bills begin to appear in the case, but I don't give a shit for them. Where is my thunder girl?
The notes dance like stray fireflies, and then a cascading waterfall of colors. I am not thinking notes. I am thinking colors and shapes as though the drawing of the bow across the string were moving pieces of a mosaic together. Cascading tastes, now sweet, now sour, now lemon, now vanilla. These are my guides. She has taught me to trust my senses.
The people stand awhile and listen. I’m looking at their faces, searching. On the outside I’m a busking musician, on the inside I am a necromancer raising a ghost. The bow is my wand. The shapes my fire. The swelling smoke of the notes my incense.
The sound of a cello. There.
Ghostly at first, rising, and now the familiar shapes her fingers make. I spin like a fiddler looking to see where she has set up beside me, but there’s no one, only the cello sound, demanding and sweet.
A flash of skin. A nose. Darting lips pressing hard my mouth without missing a note. The glare of golden light staggers me backwards and the rolling peal drowns the world behind my wounded eyes.
I have to bend over sharply, stopping the music, lifting the bow. Panting, looking up. People applaud, laughing at my reddened face; they don't know its because I'm holding my breath against my urge to scream.
There - she runs! Like Ahab, I know its her as her heels vanish behind the iron gate into the park. I don’t care about the violin case full of money – I can’t lose this moment.
This park in the warm summer evening is filled with people. It’s especially filled with women.
Someone impatiently pushes past me and jostles me and my chest is hurting. All the women in the world are here. I just can’t. I can’t go in there. I don’t even know which one is really her.
But – there is a way.
The hot tingle of her glass slipper hangs on my lips.
It’s mate is in there where my Cinderella ran. She may as well have dashed into a pool of sharks.
I draw the bow to summon her. Struggling to play the concerto but I can’t think for fear, the humiliation, my fingers are shaking and fumbling on the strings. There are so many women - why are there so many women? Don't they have anywhere else to go? Useless me. Impotent.
I try counting prime numbers but I can’t think for the squeezing of my breath. Women and girls are looking at me in my distress. I scratch out a little tune to console myself, hide myself in colors, a simple blue Applachian ditty. One old woman lifts her long skirt and does a little shottish. Girls hop and dance. If I don’t look at them I can walk towards the dancing women, if I keep my eyes on the ground. Close. Fiddling, a playful little shuffle with my feet to keep them off guard. The old soft shoe.
I dart in close and kiss the old woman on the mouth and cringe waiting for her to punch me.
There is no thunder. But she doesn’t hit me. She laughs. The girl next to her shrieks with giggles and watches me expectantly. I close my eyes – tight- tight – and punch her lips awkwardly with mine.
There is no thunder. But she hugs me.
More fiddling, I feel things relaxing. Women are standing up and coming closer. So many women. Which one is her?
Bare breasted women who have been lounging in the grass reading books and sipping from plastic cups while the men folk sneak stares at their nipples, these half naked beauties come over to me and begin dancing in a circle, breasts swaying like pagan goddesses. Men lift their phones and snap pictures of them. I fiddle my way over and their breasts and nipples don’t frighten me. They look like a circle of number 9’s dancing a little jig like some old Max Fleischer cartoon. I kiss them one by one. One girl with bright blue wings tattooed across her breasts leans across my moving bow and kisses me kindly on the lips.
Thunder. Bright thunder as blue as her tattoo.
But blue is not right, it should be yellow.
Another bare breasted girl kisses me delicately on the cheek – bright pealing silver thunder.
The women. The thunder. It’s all the wrong thunder. But the women are kissing me and the women are kind. I love women. I have always loved women. The company of women. These women have penetrated my terror and welcomed me into them. A great sweeping peace washes over me such I never imagined possible.
My eyes are closed in happiness when they come to my skin, the magic lips that bring the loudest crash, and there behind dazzled eyes closed by bliss and not fear - the golden light of thunder.
The topless girls in the park are "The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society". If you'd like to appreciate them the URL of their web page is: